Friday night at Hillsborough will go down as an infamous night in the history of the club. The actions of one cretin who ran on the pitch has sullied the name of Leeds United once more, and cast a dim light over a support widely acknowledged as one of the best in the game. I was at Hillsborough, and will attempt to tell the story, dispassionately as I can as to what transpired.
The evening was always going to be a lively one, a Yorkshire derby, our first trip to Sheffield Wednesday in five years and a capacity crowd. As usual the Leeds fans were flanked by the Owls "finest", with the end section of the North stand in particular focusing their attention more on the Leeds fans than on the game going on in front of them. I was seated about six rows from the front, very close to the South Stand, just in line with the edge of the penalty area.
The football was pretty abysmal, and as is often the case the supporters tried to entertain themselves. The chants began against Dave Jones, referring back to his court appearance on child abuse charges back at the turn of the century. It was a pretty low thing to sing, and I for one did not join in. Then followed a dismal attempt at black humour by the travelling support with a couple of songs about Jimmy Saville.
Just before half time things began to get a little heated, with Becchio escaping with the most blatant handball since Maradona, and then Wednesday taking the lead with a soft goal. The Wednesday fans in the North Stand threw on a smoke bomb, and as usual there was plenty of goading from both sides. A goal down, Leeds tempers began to come to the boil as Manuel Llera was allowed to get away with at least three attempts to punch Michael Brown, and a host of decisions seemed to go against United.
As Leeds tried to get back into the game in the second half, it really started to turn ugly. The chant of "Always look out for Turks carrying knifes" from the South Stand was the catalyst for things to really start to kick off. Bottles were thrown from the Leeds end immediately, with the missiles graduating to seats within minutes. Fans attempted to climb down the steps from the top tier in the Leeds end, and the Wednesday fans broke through the stewards in the South Stand, with the intention of facing the United fans head on.
The stewards from in front of the goal seemed to be drafted in to help out, as were the police, with a female steward running the full width of the pitch, imploring them to help out as things were turning ugly. Minutes later Michael Tonge scored his fantastic equaliser, celebrating wildly, as a former Blade is wont to do against the Owls.
The celebration was right in front of me, and I saw a couple of fans get on to hug the players. I was unaware of what happened to Chris Kirkland, until the physios came on to treat him. My initial reaction was that he had been hit by a seat, as that was what the referee had in his hand.
The police threw a couple of Wednesday fans out of the South stand, who had rushed toward the Leeds fans, one Owl being ejected for pushing a policeman. Within minutes the riot squad appeared, and initially were lined up to flank the Wednesday fans, before being reorganised to stand in front of the Leeds support.
At the final whistle, I left almost immediately, not seeing the Leeds team come and applaud the fans. I was pretty keen to get on a tram and get back to the station for my train back to Leeds, and managed to get to the tram without any further incident.
Going back into Sheffield, there were pockets of Wednesday fans who were coming up to the tram to bang on the windows, as well as a group who once again sang about Istanbul. However the journey was relatively peaceful and we were ushered from the tram and onto the next train available.
I hope I have not shown any bias or condoned any of the criminal activity that transpired. Until one idiotic individual committed his stupid act, it was just another typical away game.